This morning, a majority of the Mississippi Ethics Commission voted to adopt an order of dismissal stating that the Mississippi House of Representatives is not subject to the Open Meetings Act.
Commissioner Stephen Burrow presented the order of dismissal stating that the Commission’s opinion is that the Legislature exempted itself from the Open Meetings law.
Commissioners voting in favor of the order of dismissal were:
Ben Stone, Chair, Gulfport
Sean Milner, Vice Chair, Clinton
Stephen Burrow, Pascagoula
Samuel Kelly, Madison
Erin Lane, Ridgeland
Voting against the order of dismissal were:
Ron Crowe, Secretary, Brandon
Maxwell Luter, Tylertown
Robert Waites, Brandon
The Commission was responding to a complaint filed by the Mississippi Free Press asking that the Mississippi House be found in violation of the law when a quorum of the House, under the guise of the House Republican Caucus, meets behind closed doors to discuss and decide matters of legislation, excluding the press and the public from their debate. See details.
While the Commission majority found that the Legislature was not included in the Open Meetings Act, they also stated unequivocally and repeatedly that such meetings are a violation of the Constitution and that the Legislature should be subject to the Open Meetings law.
Thank you to all of you who emailed, called, or otherwise reached out to the Commission. We must now hold our representatives to account. Please have conversations with your representatives about their commitment to open government. Ask that they do their part to uphold the constitutional mandate to do the public’s business in view of the public – including leaving any closed meeting in which legislation is discussed.
Each of our legislators took an oath to uphold the Constitution, and the Constitution clearly prohibits this behavior.
If your legislators are unwilling to conduct the public’s business in public, consider running for office yourself – or encourage a friend or neighbor to run. All legislative seats will be on the ballot next November, and the qualifying deadline is February 1.
The Mississippi Free Press has announced that it will appeal the Ethics Commission’s decision to the Hinds County Chancery Court. We will be watching this case closely and will keep you in the loop on important developments. Together, we’ve got this!